When you arrived at your holiday accommodation after a long journey, your first thought isn’t likely to be “how safe is it?” After all most of us happily assume that the accommodation we booked has to be safe. While tour operators are obliged to ensure that accommodation meets local safety standards, these may not be as rigorous as we expect in the UK and if you have booked independently you should be especially wary as the accommodation may never have been inspected. Which? magazine have been campaigning for improved standards for many years. So amongst the excitement of finally being on holiday, take a few minutes to check for the following.
It is rare to find lifeguards at foreign pools who will curb dangerous behaviour, so everyone needs to be responsible for their safety. Familiarise yourself and your children with where the shallow and deep end are (some deep ends are placed close to the infant pool). Don’t dive into the pool unless you are certain it is deep enough – unfortunately this is a common cause of serious injury. Discourage running around the edge and if the water is cloudy, excessively blue-coloured or generally appears to not be clean, don’t use it, and inform your tour rep straightaway. Dirty water can make you very sick.
The novelty of a balcony is bound to be a popular draw for the kids but they should not be encouraged to play on them. Check that there are no large gaps in the railings and that the mountings are secure.
Heaters and air conditioning
Carbon monoxide is odourless so if you have gas heaters in the property you might not notice a problem until it is too late. If you can see a flame, it should be blue and not yellow, and watch out for a sooty discharge around the appliance. If the party begin to show flu-like symptoms, turn the appliance off straightaway and seek medical advice.
Air conditioning units can harbour Legionnaires disease and other viruses. It should appear and smell clean and the room should not feel humid.
Check that light switches and sockets are secure on the wall and do not get excessively hot or begin sparking.
Check that your door locks properly from the inside and the outside (and can be unlocked quickly again) and that windows accessible from the outside can be secured.
Take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with the fire instructions, and make a note of where the fire exits are. In a self-catering cottage this may not be so obvious, so consider how you and your family would evacuate the building in the event of a fire, and check that the smoke alarms are working.
How to complain
If you think something is unsafe, don’t feel shy about complaining. Speak to the accommodation manager and if you are on a package holiday speak to your rep who should put pressure on the accommodation provider if they are slow to act on your complaint. Take photos of the problem if it is not fixed straightaway and keep a diary of the complaints you made. If you cannot move accommodation, take the precautions you need and contact your tour operator on your return to the UK – the only way things will improve is if people express their dissatisfaction and your complaint may even save a life.
Even when we have safe accommodation worldwide, travel insurance will always be a must. 24/7 Travel Insurance offers a week’s insurance for a family in Europe from just £15.27*
The vast majority of accommodation is very safe and things have improved dramatically in recent years so don’t be put off!
*Premium includes Insurance Premium Tax; based on a family of two adults aged under 55 and two children aged under 18 taking out a Standard single-trip policy and purchased within 14 days of departure date. Cover details and prices are correct at time of going to press and are subject to change.